Communication Builds Our Community

City Anticipates $23 Million Grant to Complete "Connected" Project

Funding Would Allow Reconstruction of First Street North, Lincoln Avenue, Portions of Central and A Street

A grant application for the "Complete Streets redesign of remaining portions of 1st Street, Central Avenue, and Lincoln Avenue" has been given a high probability of success by a grant consultant working for the City of Lake Wales.

The application seeks 100 percent funding for the redesign and reconstruction of most of First Street North, Lincoln Avenue, and single blocks of Central Avenue and A Street. The total project costs included in the application are $22,930,000, which includes a 10 percent potential cost overrun.

The projects are part of the adopted Lake Wales Connected downtown revitalization plan. The application was submitted under the federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program, known as "RAISE."

The ongoing Park Avenue revitalization project is also part of the Connected plans, but it is being paid for by the Community Redevelopment Agency through a bonded revenue stream. CRA funds are inadequate to pay for the entire ambitious Connected plan recommendations.

Lee Hale of Hale Innovation, the city's grant consultant, explained how close the city had come to winning the grant last year. A debrief on the project he was granted by federal staff explained that there were 1,100 requests for more than $15 billion submitted for the $2.2 billion of funding available nationwide. Only 14.7 percent of the requests were awarded, with the city's application only "two or three percent off," Hale told commissioners.

Slaton told commissioners at the February workshop that the city had applied for "an identical Neighborhood Access and Equities grant" in the current cycle.

Hale explained that his team was advised at the meeting with grant officials to apply for the NAE grant, a similar program for complete urban streets, because "if we don't get the NAE grant that will actually improve our score" for the RAISE grant. Hale told the commissioner that the results of the new application would be revealed on June 27.

The updated application is slightly lower than last year's request, which Slaton explained was the result of the city obtaining a HUD grant of about $750,000 that will pay for the portion of First Street from Park Avenue to Orange Avenue, adjacent to the US Post Office, so it was removed from the new application.

The cost estimate for First Street of $14.4 million is based on 90 percent design completion performed by the city's engineering firm, ChastainSkillman. That portion of the project includes just over a half-mile from Central Avenue to Dr JA Wiltshire Avenue, where the street connects with A Street, then jogging to Lincoln Avenue.

The grant application cites "wide vehicular lanes {that} encourage speeding, making streets and intersections uncomfortable for pedestrians and cyclists," adding that "dilapidated, discontinuous sidewalks create a barrier between the two areas and hinder access to the surrounding resources."

"A sparse tree canopy fails to provide walkways with adequate shade," the application continued. All the citied problems would be addressed if the project is approved for funding, along with new lighting and other improvements.

The portion of Central Avenue between First Street and Scenic Highway will include narrower travel lanes to accommodate parking and the addition of street trees and new bike tracks connecting to the city's expanding network of walking and biking trails. Those bike tracks will continue north on First Street as well.

The project concepts were designed by the urban planning firm of Dover, Kohl & Partners during a months-long process that sought broad public comment and suggestions, building a community consensus in support of the effort. The effort included a number of those "partner" firms with specialties in economic development, traffic, housing, and other elements of the plan.

The project was initiated by sponsors of the Lake Wales Main Street program who recognized the long-term decline of the city's commercial heart and wanted to change the narrative.


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